February 24, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Meg Wagner, Adrienne Vogt, Melissa Macaya, Rob Picheta, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Ed Upright, Maureen Chowdhury and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 8:06 a.m. ET, February 25, 2022
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7:18 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Ukraine president says Russian sabotage groups have entered Kyiv

From CNN's Tim Lister in Kyiv

(Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky/Facebook)
(Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky/Facebook)

President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that he believes that Russian sabotage groups have entered the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

In a video statement late Thursday, Zelensky said:  "According to our information, the enemy marked me as target No. 1, my family, as target No. 2. They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state. We have information that enemy sabotage groups have entered Kyiv."

He added: "I am staying in the government quarter together with others."

6:16 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Ukrainian males aged 18-60 are banned from leaving the country, Zelensky says in new declaration

From CNN's Tamara Qiblawi and Caroll Alvardo

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has ordered a general military mobilization. 

In a declaration signed late Thursday, Zelensky said that "in order to ensure the defense of the state, maintaining combat and mobilization readiness of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and other military formations," a broad-based mobilization was ordered, including in the capital, Kyiv and all Ukraine's major cities.

"Mobilization shall be carried out within 90 days from the date of entry into force of this Decree," the announcement said.

The mobilization also instructed "the Security Service of Ukraine to take counterintelligence measures during the general mobilization."

It ordered the "conscription of conscripts, reservists for military service, their delivery to military units and institutions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine" and other state security services.

At the same time, Ukraine has banned all-male citizens 18-60 years old from leaving the country, according to the State Border Guard Service.

The statement said that following the introduction of martial law in Ukraine, a temporary restriction had been imposed. 

"In particular, it is forbidden for men aged 18-60, Ukraine citizens, to leave the borders of Ukraine," the statement said. "This regulation will remain in effect for the period of the legal regime of martial law. We ask the citizens to take this information into consideration."

Some more context: At least 57 people have died and 169 injured since Moscow launched the invasion, according to Ukraine’s Minister of Healthcare, Viktor Lyashko. 

“We’re staying home. We don’t want to leave,” says 24-year-old Andrew who had just learned about the travel ban on Ukrainian men. He did not disclose his full name for security reasons.

“I can’t leave now because last update (was that) was that guys from 18 to 68 … cannot leave borders of Ukraine,” he says. “We will stay here till Russians go home because it’s important to us to stay in our homes,” he added. “We will stay with our government."

6:12 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

OSCE to evacuate all its staff from Ukraine

From CNN’s Martin Goillandeau

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has said it will “temporarily evacuate” all its international mission members from Ukraine as soon as possible.

The updates came Thursday in a statement published by OSCE Secretary-General Helga Maria Schmid.

Schmid said the decision to withdraw OSCE staff from Ukraine was “due to the ongoing fighting and deteriorated security situation” in the country.

A spokesperson for the Secretariat confirmed to CNN that members of the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) would be among the evacuees.

“The commitment and bravery of the OSCE staff is commendable," Schmid's statement read. "The OSCE promptly established the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) in 2014 and the dedicated men and women of this mission have been our impartial eyes and ears on the ground throughout the country."

The secretary-general said the decision to evacuate “was not taken lightly and the relocation is meant to be temporary,” noting that, “we have a legacy to be proud of in the country. We look forward to resuming our missions when circumstances permit.”

Schmid's statement closed by saying that "the safety of the dedicated women and men who serve as impartial eyes and ears of the international community on the ground throughout the country is imperative."

6:00 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Talks will intensify on Capitol Hill next week over legislative response to Russia, congressional sources say

From CNN's Manu Raju

Senate Democrats and Republicans have had early conversations about an emergency aid package to help assist with the military conflict in Ukraine, according to congressional sources.

It’s unclear exactly what that package will look like and how much it will cost given that the military campaign has just begun. They will need the Biden administration to make an official request to help draft the legislation.

Lawmakers expect those talks to intensify next week.

Moreover, some lawmakers from both parties have called for a tougher legislative response on sanctions against Russia, including Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez, who wants to restart talks on sanctions legislation that stalled earlier this month, according to a person familiar with the matter.

5:56 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Immigrant advocacy organizations urge Biden administration to extend immigration relief to Ukrainians

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez and Geneva Sands

Immigrant attorneys and advocacy organizations are urging the Biden administration to extend a form of humanitarian relief, known as Temporary Protected Status, to Ukrainians in the US to shield them from deportation.

"(American Immigration Lawyers Association) calls on the Biden administration to take all necessary steps to expeditiously adjudicate cases filed by or on behalf of Ukrainian nationals and to provide a small measure of security for Ukrainians who may already be in the United States by designating Ukraine for Temporary Protected Status and implementing a temporary moratorium on removals to Ukraine," said AILA President Allen Orr in a statement. 

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. similarly called on the administration to extend immigration relief to Ukrainians. 

“As we watch in horror the attacks unfolding in the neighborhoods and homes of our Ukrainian brothers and sisters, we urge President Biden to protect human life by extending TPS, DED and SSR to Ukrainians currently in the United States," said Anna Gallagher, CLINIC’s executive director, in a statement, referring also to Deferred Enforced Departure and Special Student Relief.

The Department of Homeland Security said it’s monitoring the situation, but didn’t disclose whether a decision has been made. 

“We continue to closely monitor conditions in Ukraine. We have no announcements to share or preview at this time,” a Homeland Security spokesperson said.

Ukrainians in the US are desperately searching for answers for loved ones back home to try to bring them to the US and out of harm's way, according to immigration attorneys. 

“People are extremely, extremely hurt, terrified, upset, crying,” Iryna Mazur, an immigration attorney and Honorary Consul for Ukraine, told CNN. 

Mazur said her phone has been ringing constantly since the invasion as Ukrainians whose relatives had pending petitions come to the US seek answers and those here on visas try to chart next steps.

5:38 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

US has not seen Russia employ "full scope" of "electronic warfare capabilities," senior defense official says

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman and Rishi Iyengar

The US has not seen Russia employ the “full scope of their electronic warfare capabilities,” at this point, a senior defense official told reporters on Thursday.

“Open media communication remains intact, obviously some of these kinetic attacks have certainly gone after their ability to command and control, and as I said earlier, we have not seen them employ the full scope of their electronic warfare capabilities," the official said.

Some background: The standoff between the US and Russia over the conflict in Ukraine has so far mainly played out on diplomatic and economic fronts.

But now, as Russia invades Ukraine and the US imposes new sanctions on Russia, there are concerns that may change. The US government is on high alert for the possibility of the conflict spilling over into cyberspace, where Russia has shown an ability to cause significant disruption and damage in the past.

On Tuesday, a senior FBI cyber official warned US businesses and local governments that they should be vigilant against potential ransomware attacks, just days after multiple US agencies issued a similar warning to executives at major US banks, according to people with knowledge of both meetings.

If the recent past is any indication, there are a number of ways Russian hackers could disrupt US businesses and the general public.

Read more here.

5:21 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Kyiv goes quiet and dark as the city's mayor orders an overnight curfew

From CNN's Ivana Kottasova

Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv has gone dark and very quiet late Thursday night.

The evening respite stands in stark contrast to a day marked by sporadic explosions and air raid sirens.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko announced a curfew from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. local time, leaving the streets deserted and many buildings completely dark.

People across the city have either switched off their lights or drawn their curtains.

The city public transport system has also been shut down for the night, although all metro stations remain open and can be used as emergency shelters.

A view of the city center facing east.
A view of the city center facing east. (CNN/Ivana Kottasova)

5:27 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Ukraine's State Border Guard says island south of country's coast falls into Russian hands

From CNN's Jonny Hallam

The small Ukrainian island of Zmiinyi in the Black Sea has been captured by the Russian forces, Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service said in a statement posted on Facebook late on Thursday.

The border guard service said infrastructure on the island was destroyed after an aerial attack and artillery shelling. Communications with the border guards and armed forces on the island was severed, according to the post. 

Zmiinyi Island, or “Snake Island,” is one of the country’s southernmost settlements. The island, which is roughly 20 miles south from the Ukrainian coast, island plays a key role in establishing the boundaries of Ukraine’s territorial waters.

The island’s small population consists mostly of border guards. 

The border guard service said in a statement that the island had been "captured by the enemy" based on last information it received. It added that Russian forces demanded that those defending the island surrender. 

“It should be noted that the SBGSU, together with the Ukrainian armed forces and the National Guard of Ukraine, continues to fight actively against enemy,” the statement added.

5:27 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

CNN team witnesses major outgoing artillery fire from Russian forces

From CNN’s Frederik Pleitgen

At around 12:15 a.m. local time, salvos of what appeared to be artillery rockets were fired toward Ukraine, according to a CNN crew on the ground. 

CNN has seen heavy concentrations of Russian troops south of Belgorod in Russia near the final checkpoint towards Ukraine and a highway that leads to the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.